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No. 20, March 1, 1968, p. 3

Reaction to the Anti-Dow Demonstration

The recent Harvard-Dow demonstration exemplified the spirit of co-operation — a "non-obstructive sit-in" in which Harvard students cooperated with Harvard deans and avoided risking their bursar's cards. We took our places in University Hall after being politely refused admittance to Massachusetts Hall, politely leaving so we wouldn't bother President Pusey. We left aisles so the deans wouldn't lose any freedom of movement, and we kept quiet so the secretaries could do their business as usual. And a dean checked our bursar's cards as we filed in. We were careful not to "obstruct" anyone — after all, this was a "non-obstructive" demonstration.

The Dow representative was several blocks away, doing his business as usual, but the demonstration was really aimed at the university and its pretended "neutrality", being held in administration buildings and trying to confront Pusey. So we confronted the deans — and we made sure we co-operated with them.

Co-operation is effective action, man could accomplish little without it. But people generally co-operate only when their goals are similar, and I doubt one's goals are very similar to those he is "confronting". In such a case, co-operation is not a terribly effective tactic. It further implies that the deans are right — that the obstructive demonstration was wrong and we deserved probation for it.

The demonstration was obedient and unobtrusive, being advertised as "non-obstructive, silent sit-ins at Massachusetts (sic) and University Halls". And the demonstrators were obedient and unobtrusive, showing their bursar's cards and keeping their voices down, surrounded by all the white walls and white shirts. We weren't going to make anyone angry. Gone was the spirit charging the October Dow demonstration, and even present in the Fast Against the War. Some say this spirit is mob-emotion, but it is really the force that can get a demonstrator committed, the kind of spirit that, overflowing from the Pentagon, caused the first Dow demonstration three days later.

There are essentially three ways in which a demonstration can be effective: 1) actually interrupting the war-machine's daily activity, 2) influencing the outside world, and 3) influencing the demonstrators themselves. The first can rarely be effective, due to the vast scale of the government and its allies (though an admirable attempt was made in signing up radicals as Dow interviewees).

The second way is usually the professed goal of a demonstration, political agreement, but any effectiveness is nearly eliminated by distortions in the mass media (how many people were in Washington?) — you alienate those who were already against you. Or when the influence is on a smaller scale, person-to-person, it largely depends on the feelings of the demonstrator who is talking with the people who did not demonstrate. Also, I really can't see anyone becoming pro-war just because we violated a Dow man's "freedom of movement."

The third is usually the most important factor; it is to a great degree where the commitment of the anti-war movement has arisen and deepened, and from this commitment has come the real anti-war work they are doing. There is a vast difference between political agreement and this commitment. The former is essentially superficial and transitory; commitment implies a changed life-style, and is more deep-rooted and meaningful-this is where the Movement has really accomplished something.

The degree and direction of influence and commitment a demonstration yields is determined by its atmosphere or spirit. The New York and Washington (Lincoln Memorial) mass demonstrations further liberalized the liberals — or at least coalesced them. The Oakland and Pentagon confrontations (and the first Dow to some degree) generated radicals through conflict. The Harvard-Radcliffe-BU Fast was a moderately successful attempt to bring about commitment through personal sacrifice and four days of discussion and constant thought about the war, spurred by hunger.

And the spirit of this Dow sit-in was obedience and co-operation.

SDS accuses the University of tacit (at least) support of the war through its "neutrality". Rather, accuse Harvard students of neutrality through their tacit opposition ("silent sit-in").

Was the demonstration non-obstructive to gain a broad base of support, including or not offending those who support Dow's "free speech and open recruitment"? (Although the obstructive demonstration was easily twice the size of the broad-based sit-in, and collected as many more bursar's cards in support.) I suspect the real reason for the co-operation was students' fears of being expelled, as threatened by the deans — a suspicion based on talks with student, disregarding the rampant rhetoric.

Of course, one is fully justified in not risking his neck, or deferment, for a demonstration. But he should realize that his safe demonstration will probably be a waste of time, so he might as well go up to New Hampshire to fight for McCarthy and stop kidding himself.

randy foote

Mel Lyman